Written by: Jane Watts, BS, Florida State University Dietetic Intern at TMH
Precepted by: Afaf Qasem, MS, RDN, LDN, Director of Quality of Life Services at TMH
The term “sustainability” is echoing across all communities, from small business owners to government officials. So, what is it? Sustainability is the practice of being more aware of how we are meeting the needs of our growing population while taking care of our environment. How we choose to use our natural resources like oil for our cars and land for our farming have major impacts on our planet’s future.
Although there are a lot of changes that need to happen at the industry level, you can still have an impact on the individual level by making a difference in things you do every day. You may not realize it but the food choices we make can have an impact on future generations.
Let’s celebrate Earth Day by making an effort to impact our environment’s future.
Here are seven action steps you can start taking today:
- Start a Garden. An easy way to save money, help the environment and gain an appreciation for farmers is to start your own garden. You can start simply with one plant and develop your green thumb before trying out a large variety of plants. Not sure where to start? Check out University of Florida’s IFAS gardening solution page and take action.
- Eat in-season produce. In grocery stores we see fresh produce year-round. Some of those fruits and vegetables have to travel far distances when they are out of season in your area. Support sustainability by buying the produce that is in season. Check out the USDA SNAP-Ed seasonal produce guide to help you take action.
- Focus on plant-based options. A diet based around fruits, vegetables and legumes has been shown to have less impact on the environment and more positive impacts on overall health. Trying out plant-based recipes is a great way to diversify your taste buds. A small action step you can start with would be participating meatless Mondays. Check out “Mindful” by Sodexo for recipes.
- Shop locally. Supporting your local farmers and businesses not only provides you with quality products, but it also fosters a healthy and strong community. When you purchase foods that were grown locally, it limits the amount of fuel it takes to transport foods to grocery stores. This may seem like a small impact but if a large number of us take this action step, the impact will be significant. Discover local resources.
- Support sustainable restaurants. Take action by supporting restaurants that source their products from local farmers and producers. Once the public starts demanding sustainable choices, more companies will start providing them. Explore restaurants that source locally in Tallahassee.
- Reduce wasted foods. It is estimated about 68 percent of the wasted food we generate ends up in landfills. Planning, prepping and properly storing foods can help limit food waste from your own household. Create a shopping list of what you need to get after checking what’s in your fridge and cabinets first. Struggling with making a grocery list? Take action and check out USDA MyPlate for resources.
- Use a refillable bottle. On average, every person in the United States uses 13 plastic bottles per month. Even though there are recycling options, many of these empty plastic bottles fill up our landfills. Take action by using a refillable bottle or properly recycle to help support a healthier environment. Not sure where to get started? Check out these local resources on how to recycle.
Practicing sustainability can be fun for the whole family. You can start new traditions, like going to the community garden or farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings. Not only is it good for our environment and our communities, these changes can have a lasting impact on our health and our children’s future health.
This Earth Day, challenge yourself and take action by trying these steps. Don’t forget…small changes can lead to great impacts over time.